By: Sebastián Abdón Ibarra
LA VERNE, CA — The University of La Verne Leopards (1-3) defeated the Embry-Riddle Eagles (2-5) on Saturday night with a final score of 72-70 in the Sports Science and Athletics Pavillion. The Leos were led to victory by John Malone II and Paul Antonis, two athletes distinguishing themselves as major contributors with their play so far this season.
La Verne overcame an early 18-10 deficit. With minutes left in the first, Kyler Harvey tied the game at 24-24 with a three pointer, while Austin Rapp gave the Leos a 25-24 lead with a free throw before the end of the half. In the final seconds, La Verne executed a great defensive possession to clamp down on the Eagles, going into halftime with the lead.
Buckets came fast and furious at the start of the second half, as both teams were hot coming out of the break. Antonis and Malone helped the Leos set the pace and push past the Eagles' strong start. Antonis drained back to back threes to give La Verne a 35-32 lead.
Malone was automatic coming out of the locker room and his efforts were enough to keep the Leos in front as Embry-Riddle attempted to close the gap. He scored nine points in a little under four minutes to help build La Verne's 42-32 lead. Perfect 6-6 from the field, Malone didn't miss his first shot until half way through the second half, and finished the sequence with 14 points.
The final moments of the game were intense as La Verne fought to keep their lead with less than a minute left in the game. A layup by Embry-Riddle reduced La Verne's lead to 71-70 with just three seconds left in the game. Seth Shaw made one of two free throws after being intentionally fouled by the Eagles to give the Leos a 72-70 lead with two seconds left. The Leos played excellent team defense on Embry-Riddle's last possession and did not allow the Eagles to get a final shot off before time expired.
Malone was the leading scorer in the game with 24 points on 63% shooting from the field. He also had three rebounds, four assists, and a steal. It was Malone's first time leading the team in scoring this season. Antonis had La Verne's first double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Antonis has reached double digit points in three of La Verne's four official games this season.
The Leos are back in action on Tuesday when they take on Linfield at 7:00 p.m. at home in the Sports Science and Athletics Pavillion.